Film-Philosophy Conference, Film-Philosophy Conference 2012

Sublime Sensation: Black Swan

Tarja Laine


Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan (2010) is a film that explores the difference between the psychological and the corporeal  – a feeling body in pain versus a psychological character in turmoil. This paper aims to show that an aesthetic-affective approach in engaging with the film will reveal philosophical dimensions that remain hidden in more conventional narrative approaches. The affective core of the film is sublime, here understood as an aesthetic experience that is directly felt on the skin and that is not necessarily pleasurable. In the film skin functions prominently both as mise-en-scene element, and as a thematic element: it is shed, penetrated, transformed, and mutilated, among other things. As a theoretical concept skin, a ‘mucous membrane’as Michel Serres calls it, opens up an avenue for a corporeal way of thinking about the film and its themes such as transformation, dissolution of self, and becoming-animal in a bodily performance independent of the dancer’s psyche and emotions. This paper explores the affective and sensorial effects of Black Swan through the notion of skin both as a pain-sensing organ and a thrill-feeling membrane. 

Only abstracts are available on this site

About the Presenter

Tarja Laine
University of Amsterdam

Assistant professor, department of Media Studies